Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, September 15, 2017, Page 11, Image 11

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September 15, 2017
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CapitalPress.com
11
California
Disease puts
Florida citrus
production
behind that
of California
Table olives’ high yields offset by rising costs
By TIM HEARDEN
By TIM HEARDEN
Capital Press
SACRAMENTO — The
devastation of the deadly tree
disease huanglongbing has
caused Florida to fall behind
California in total citrus pro-
duction for the first time in
decades.
The Golden State produced
3.9 million tons of citrus fruit
in the 2016-2017 season com-
pared to 3.5 million tons from
Florida, according to a Na-
tional Agricultural Statistics
Service report.
Florida’s 410,700 bear-
ing acres still tops Califor-
nia, which grows citrus on
268,500 acres. But Florida’s
yields have fallen dramatical-
ly from the 500 million tons
the state produced just two
years ago.
California’s
ascension
comes as huanglongbing, or
citrus greening, has slammed
the citrus industry in the U.S.
southeast, causing an average
loss of 7,513 jobs per year and
costing growers nearly $3 bil-
lion in revenue, the University
of Florida has estimated.
“It’s devastating because it
just points out how disastrous
HLB is,” said Bob Blake-
ly, vice president of the Ex-
eter-based California Citrus
Mutual. He noted that Florida
had been approaching 1 mil-
lion acres of citrus before the
disease hit.
“They’ve lost over half
of their citrus production,
and most of that was lost in
the last eight years to HLB,”
Blakely said.
Fresh production in Florida
has declined 83 percent since
the 1995-96 season while total
citrus production has declined
74 percent, Citrus Mutual ex-
plains on its website.
When HLB was first dis-
covered in 2005, growers at
first thought grapefruit would
be more tolerant of the disease
than other citrus varieties, but
grapefruit groves eventually
succumbed, too, the organiza-
tion notes.
“They’re on the verge of
not even being able to produce
enough fruit to maintain their
infrastructure,” Blakely said.
“They have plants closing
and packing houses closing. It
certainly concerns us that that
could happen in California if
we can’t control this disease.”
Only 26 packing houses in
Florida boxed up fresh citrus
last year, and four of them
have announced they will
close. Just 22 years ago, the
state had 65 packing hous-
es that shipped more than
150,000 cartons each, CCM
explained.
While it does not harm hu-
mans, huanglongbing is fatal
to citrus trees and has no cure.
The disease has been detected
in more than 70 citrus trees
in Southern California urban
areas, but the disease has not
yet migrated into the Golden
State’s commercial groves.
California is seeking to
slow the spread of the disease
to buy time for research. A
quarantine covers about one-
third of California, and Gov.
Jerry Brown signed a budget
in June that includes $10 mil-
lion from the general fund for
the state’s Citrus Pest and Dis-
ease Prevention Program. The
allocation follows legislation
this year that will enable the
citrus industry to increase its
9-cent assessment to support
the program.
Growers have invested
more than $100 million into
the program since 2009, ac-
cording to Citrus Mutual.
Most of that money has gone
to trapping, treatments and
surveys in urban areas to stop
the spread of the Asian citrus
psyllid, which can carry huan-
glongbing.
The industry has devot-
ed $15 million toward HLB
research and education, in-
cluding $8 million from the
grower-funded California Cit-
rus Research Foundation to
construct a biosecurity-level 3
lab near the University of Cal-
ifornia-Riverside.
Labor costs and
increased global
competition are
frustrating for growers
Capital Press
SACRAMENTO — Table olive
growers in California expect an abun-
dant crop and good prices, but the
industry is still frustrated by rising
production costs and increased global
competition.
This year’s anticipated 73,000-ton
crop would be up 9 percent from last
year’s 67,100-ton crop, according to
a National Agricultural Statistics Ser-
vice survey.
Bearing acreage is estimated at
19,000, which results in a yield of
3.84 tons per acre, NASS reports.
“It looks like it’s going to be a bet-
ter crop than normal,” said Adin Hes-
ter, president of the Cloverdale-based
Olive Growers Council of California.
“It could be a little bit higher than we
expected.”
Hester said prices to growers will
likely be a little less than last year’s
average of about $1,100 per ton,
which was near an all-time high.
However, production costs this
past year were above $2,000 per acre,
Tim Hearden/Capital Press File
This year’s table olive crop in California is expected to be slightly larger than last
year, but rising labor costs and increased global competition frustrate growers.
which includes harvesting costs of
between $450 and $550 per ton, he
said.
With the lingering labor shortage,
some growers may need to boost their
harvest costs even further, Hester
said.
Another issue, Hester said, is that
domestic table olives are being under-
cut by cheaper, subsidized Spanish
olives that have flooded the market-
place.
Black, sliced olives from Spain
have practically taken over the food
service sector, as they are used on ev-
erything from pizzas to buffet bars, he
said.
“When you look at the acreage
difference, Spain’s got five and a half
million acres of olives” including oil
olives, Hester said.
“Now they’re matching us ton for
ton.”
The table olive industry is urging
the U.S. Commerce Department to
consider placing duties on Spanish
olives, he said.
In the orchards, this is an “on” year
for the alternate-bearing trees, which
bore about 78,000 tons in 2015.
Favorable temperatures and in-
creased rainfall improved growing
conditions this year, as a cold January
and February led to good floral devel-
opment with a high bloom and ade-
quate pollen, NASS reported.
Some growers were concerned
that high temperatures during the
summer bloom could reduce the set,
according to NASS.
But the crop portends a third sea-
son of relative stability for a com-
modity whose yields saw wild ups
and downs in recent years, peaking
at a record 170,000 tons in 2010 but
coming in below 40,000 tons four
times since 2006.
The last time was in 2014, when
freezes and a lack of water led to
yields of only 37,120 tons.
The uncertainty prompted many
growers to switch to more lucra-
tive nuts or navel oranges, bringing
acreage down from a peak of 38,000
about a decade ago.
However, this year’s project-
ed bearing acreage is even with last
year’s and up slightly from the rough-
ly 18,000 acres of table olives grown
in 2015.
NASS established this year’s
forecast based on reports from 142
growers around the state, the agency
reported.
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